Monte B Cowboy
Jul 18, 2013 9:48am
Re: The Downside has an upside
As Congress holds its second major public hearing on the National Security Agency’s bulk spying, we speak with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first published whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations. The NSA admitted their analysis of phone records and online behavior far exceeded what it had previously disclosed. "The fact that you now see members of both political parties increasingly angry over the fact that they were misled and lied to by top-level Obama administration officials, that the laws that they enacted in the wake of 9/11 — as broad as they were — are being incredibly distorted by secret legal interpretations approved by secret courts, really indicates exactly that Snowden’s motives to come forward with these revelations, at the expense of his liberty and even his life, were valid and compelling," Greenwald says. "If you think about whistleblowing in terms of people who expose things the government is hiding that they shouldn’t be, in order to bring about reform, I think what you’re seeing is the fruits of classic whistleblowing."
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yesterday, lawmakers held the second major public congressional hearing into the NSA’s widespread surveillance programs since they were revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, representatives on both sides of the aisle expressed deep concern about the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and other communications. In a stark contrast to last month’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, the bipartisan House panel forcefully questioned senior officials from the NSA, FBI, Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the committee’s highest-ranking Democrat, noted that collecting telephone metadata is not covered under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: We never at any point during this debate have approved the type of unchecked, sweeping surveillance of United States citizens employed by our government in the name of fighting the war on terrorism. Section 215 authorized the government to obtain certain business records only if it can show to the FISA court that the records are relevant to an ongoing national security investigation. Now, what we think we have here is a situation in which if the government cannot provide a clear, public explanation for how its program is consistent with the statute, then it must stop collecting this information immediately. And so, this metadata problem, to me, has gotten quite far out of hand, even given the seriousness of the problems that surround it and created its need.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During Wednesday’s hearing, the NSA admitted its analysis of phone records and online behavior far exceeded what it had previously disclosed. NSA Deputy Director John Inglis revealed that analysts can perform what is called a "second or third hop query" in its pursuit of terrorists. The word "hop" is a technical term indicating connections between people. So, a three-hop query means the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but also from everyone that suspected terrorist communicated with and then from everyone those people communicated with, and so on.
Republican Congressmember James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, author of the PATRIOT Act, called on the Obama administration to rein in the scope of its surveillance on Americans’ phone records, saying it would otherwise lack enough votes in the House to renew the provision, which is set to expire in 2015. Sensenbrenner said, quote, "You’re going to lose it entirely."
Meanwhile, the man who sparked the national — and global — discussion on the NSA surveillance programs remains stranded in Russia, unable to travel to Latin America, where three countries have offered him refuge. Edward Snowden spoke Friday after he met with officials from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in Moscow’s airport.
EDWARD SNOWDEN: I also had the capability, without any warrant of law, to search for, seize and read your communications, anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates. It is also a serious violation of the law.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for more, we’re joined now by Glenn Greenwald, a columnist on civil liberties and U.S. national security issues for The Guardian. He’s also a former constitutional lawyer. Greenwald first published Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA surveillance programs and continues to write extensively on the topic. His most recent piece looks at "The Crux of the NSA Story in One Phrase: 'Collect It All.'"
Glenn Greenwald, welcome back to Democracy Now!
GLENN GREENWALD: Good to be back, Juan. Thanks.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Glenn, let’s start — your reaction to this latest hearing now, where now both Democrats and Republicans are beginning to seriously question government officials about the NSA scandal?
GLENN GREENWALD: It’s very encouraging. It’s really remarkable that if you look at what much of the American media is focused on — the trivialities and the personalities surrounding the story — it’s completely divergent from what is taking place in the halls of Washington, in the FISA court and in American public opinion. The most recent poll of Americans showed that they view Edward Snowden overwhelmingly as a whistleblower and not a traitor, because they know that the revelations for which he’s responsible were extremely significant and things that they ought to know. And the fact that you now see members of both political parties within the United States Senate and the House of Representatives increasingly angry over the fact that they were misled and lied to by top-level Obama administration officials, that the laws that they enacted in the wake of 9/11, as broad as they were, are being incredibly distorted by secret legal interpretations approved by secret courts, really, I think, indicates exactly that the motives that motivated Snowden to come forward with these revelations, at the expense of his liberty and even his life, were valid and compelling. And if you want to think about whistleblowing in terms of people who expose things the government is hiding that they shouldn’t be doing, in order to bring about reform, I think what you’re seeing is the fruits of classic whistleblowing. And it’s encouraging and gratifying certainly to him and, I think, to me and lots of other people, as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Glenn, I want to go to a clip from Republican Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, who tore into the administration officials testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Here’s Farenthold questioning Deputy Attorney General James Cole, one of four administration witnesses who were present.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: How is having every phone call that I make to my wife, to my daughter, relevant to any terror investigation?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: I don’t know that every call you make to your wife—
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: But you’ve got them.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: I don’t know that they would be relevant, and we would probably not seek to query them, because we wouldn’t have the information that we would need to make that query.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: But, you know, somebody like Mr. Snowden might be able to query them without your knowledge.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: I don’t believe that’s proven. Mr. Inglis could answer that. I don’t think he would have access to that or be able to do it.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: OK.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: We don’t believe that he could query those without our knowledge, and therefore those would be caught.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: All right, that’s slightly reassuring. The Fourth Amendment specifically was designed, as Judge Poe pointed out, to prohibit general warrants. How could collecting every piece of phone data be perceived as anything but a general warrant?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: Because the phone data, according to the Supreme Court, is not something with which — within which citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: So, do I have a reasonable expectation —
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: It belongs to the phone —
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD: — of privacy in any information that I share with any company, my Google searches, the email I send? Do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in anything but maybe a letter I hand-deliver to my wife in a skiff?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMES COLE: Those are all dependent on the facts and circumstances of the documents we’re talking about. In the case of metadata, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that there was not coverage by the Fourth Amendment, because of no reasonable expectation of privacy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Republican Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas questioning the Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Glenn Greenwald, your response?
GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, Obama officials and NSA officials have been bald-faced lying to the public ever since we first revealed the identity of Edward Snowden and published the video online, in which he now, rather famously, said, "As an NSA analyst, I could access anyone’s communication that I wanted, including even the president’s, if I had their email address or their telephone number." NSA officials came out and said that it was—that Mr. Snowden was lying about that, but NSA officials are lying about that, as that exchange just revealed.
The NSA is collecting, storing and monitoring billions of emails and telephone calls every single day — "billions" with a B, every single day. Once those communications, the content of those communications, are stored in the NSA system, any NSA analyst sitting at their terminal can query those communications, pull them up on their screen, and then listen to the telephone calls or read the emails or listen — or read the content of the chats. Any NSA analyst has the technological capability to do that, exactly as Mr. Snowden said, and there are hundreds of documents, if not thousands, in our possession that prove that conclusively, including training manuals that tell the NSA analysts how to do that.
There are legal constraints on their ability to do that. They’re not supposed to read the communications of Americans without first getting individual warrants from the FISA court, but the technological and physical capability exists. All they have to do is click a few pull-down menus, and they have exactly what they want. The oversight is very poor, to the extent it exists at all. And so, what that exchange was really getting at was the extraordinary potential for abuse that this system not only has embedded within it, but virtually guarantees. We know from the Church Committee, from investigations, from how human nature functions, that if we allow a spying agency to collect all of our communications — all of our communications — of American citizens and people around the world, and do so in the dark, with virtually no oversight, no need to go to a court except in the rarest of cases to get individual warrants, that that power is going to be abused.
And that, more than anything, is what prompted Mr. Snowden to step forward, was to tell Americans and the world that there has been this spying agency creating a ubiquitous spying program, an apparatus unlike anything we’ve seen before, that sweeps up all forms of human communication and is doing so unbeknownst to the citizenry which pays for it and which — and in whose name it’s being done. And it’s a real threat to privacy, but also to democracy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Glenn, I think it was particularly significant that Sensenbrenner, the author of the PATRIOT Act, is now telling the federal government, "You’ve gone too far, and we’re likely to withdraw your authority to do this, if you don’t begin to change what you’ve been doing." But I also wanted to go to another Republican, who you have written about, and — former two-term Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, who emailed Edward Snowden on Monday. And he wrote, in part, quote, "Mr. Snowden, provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution. Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion. I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere." You wrote about this exchange of emails between Snowden and Gordon Humphrey.
GLENN GREENWALD: I think it’s remarkable on several levels. I’ve been writing for years about the fact that civil liberties abuses and excessive government invasions are really the issue that can bridge the ideological gap and create these transpartisan, transideological coalitions more than probably any other. And then you’ve seen this over the past 10 years. The ACLU has long partnered with right-wing groups like the Christian Coalition to challenge the PATRIOT Act. And I think what you’re seeing is lots of support for Mr. Snowden and for our NSA reporting on the left, groups like Amnesty International and the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, lots of liberals and progressives who have been outspoken in their support of these disclosures, but you also see a lot of support for it on the right, as well, from people who take seriously their rhetoric about limited government and the rights of individuals and the need for safeguarding individual privacy. And I think Senator Humphrey’s letter really reflects that.
What you — the only people at this point who are defending the NSA are the hardcore neocons in the Republican Party, people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain and the like, who see national security as the only value that matters, and the really hardcore Obama loyalists and Democrats, who defend anything the Obama administration does and have become the loudest proponents, ironically, of the massive secret surveillance state and of the government’s power to listen in. So those two groups — Republican neocons, Democratic Party loyalists — are at this point the only real defenders the NSA has left. And I think you’re seeing a real breakdown of partisan and ideological divisions in support of what Mr. Snowden did, of the reporting that we’ve done, and the need for there to be transparency and light shined on what the government has been doing to our privacy completely in the dark.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Glenn, I wanted to ask you about another development, the move by several major Silicon Valley companies, together with civil liberties groups, again, to request — formally request in court that they be allowed to disclose the numbers and the extent of requests from the government to get into their systems. Could you talk about that?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yes. One of the big problems is that most of what the government is doing is being done without any transparency of any kind. And one of the most significant things they’ve done, completely in the dark, is that they have all sorts of agreements in place with Silicon Valley companies — Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Skype — that allow them all sorts of access. And sometimes the Internet companies say, "We’re only doing what we are compelled by law to do." There’s other evidence, including an article we published 10 days ago, that shows, in the case of Microsoft, that they go far beyond what the law requires and collude and cooperate very aggressively with the NSA in secret. And what these Internet companies are saying, in essence, is that "We don’t want there to be this wall of secrecy built around what it is that we’re told by the NSA to do. We want to be able to engage in the public debate in order to tell all our customers, look, this is what we’re being forced to do, this is what we think goes too far, and here’s what it is that we’ve been doing to try and resist some of these things." And it’s great to see these Internet companies wanting to have light shined on what it is it’s been doing. That’s certainly part of the impact of the reporting we’ve done. Unfortunately, the law and the Obama administration are really rigidly holding onto this requirement that these things stay secret.
And I think you’re going to see the FISA court increasingly looking toward transparency as a guiding value and allowing at least some of this process, some of this legal process, to see the light of day. I mean, that might be the most amazing thing about all of this, is that we have a secret court that meets in complete secrecy, with only the government present, and this court is issuing rulings that define what our constitutional rights are. How can you have a democracy in which your rights are determined in total secrecy by a secret court issuing 80-page rulings about what rights you have as a citizen? It is Orwellian and absurd. And I think one of the reforms that will come and is coming from our reporting is that a lot more light is going to be shined on the shenanigans that have been taking place within that court.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Glenn, interestingly, the companies like Google and Facebook and Twitter are saying that they want to release this information, but not the telecom companies. And some people are saying that for Google and Facebook and Twitter, there’s international implications, that other countries will not want to use their systems if they think that the — if they’re allowing easy access to the government to the information they collect. Your response to the silence of the telecom companies?
GLENN GREENWALD: That’s a really important point, Juan. Look, we’ve known for a long time that the telecoms — AT&T, Sprint, Verizon — are completely in bed with the United States government. Remember, the scandal of the NSA in the Bush years was that — not just that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, but also that the telecoms were vigorously cooperating in that program and turning over full and unfettered access to the telephone calls and records of millions of their customers even though there was no legal basis for doing so. And, in fact, the telecoms were on the verge of losing in court and being sued successfully by millions of their customers that they had violated their civil rights and also that they had violated their privacy rights and broken the law, criminally and civilly. And it was only because the Congress stepped in, with the leadership of both political parties, and retroactively immunized the telecoms. But the telecom industry makes massive profits on their extreme cooperation with these — with the NSA to allow all kinds of unfettered access to the communications of their customers. And so, the telecoms are the last people that want transparency brought to their cooperation with the NSA, because that would really shock people to learn just how untrustworthy those companies are when it comes to protecting the privacy of their customers’ communications.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: OK. And, Glenn, finally, I want to go into the flap that has arisen between you and Carl Bernstein. On Monday, the veteran investigative reporter Carl Bernstein publicly [on MSNBC] criticized you for the statements you allegedly made during an interview with an Argentinian paper over the weekend. Reuters reported you said, quote, "Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the U.S. government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States," and then went on to say, quote, "The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare." This is how Carl Bernstein responded to those supposed quotes that Reuters had from you.
CARL BERNSTEIN: With all my regard for The Guardian, which is considerable, especially given its role in the Murdoch case, that’s an awful statement —
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
CARL BERNSTEIN: — that that reporter made, and the tone in which he made it. It’s one thing to say that Mr. Snowden possesses some information that could be harmful, and that ought to be part of the calculation that everybody makes here. It’s another to make that kind of an aggressive, non-reportorial statement that seems to me —
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I — something has happened.
CARL BERNSTEIN: — a reporter has no business making.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
CARL BERNSTEIN: At the same time, there indeed are precautions — I, other journalists know about this — that Snowden has taken in terms of secreting some information in various places that perhaps would disclose — definitely would disclose more things, some of which might or might not be inimical to the interests of the United States. But that statement by that reporter is out of line.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Glenn Greenwald, briefly — we just have a few seconds — your response to Carl Bernstein?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I think the way that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein went from being aggressive adversarial reporters against the government to insider Washington defenders of the government is a nice illustration for what happened to the U.S. media. My criticism of him was that he relied on a Reuters summary of what I said, rather than taking the time to go read the actual interview. The Reuters summary was a complete distortion of what I said. I made the exact opposite point, that the criticism of Mr. Snowden for being reckless or harming the U.S. is based in complete fantasy, given that what he has could be damaging if he released it, if that were his goal, and yet he has safeguarded that very responsibly to make sure that only what the public should know is learned and that nothing harmful has been released. But it was a 36-hour media frenzy attacking him, attacking me, based on a complete distortion by Reuters. And Carl Bernstein and others were just too lazy to look into what was actually said.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Glenn Greenwald, I want to thank you again, a columnist on civil liberties and U.S. national security issues for The Guardian, is also a former constitutional lawyer. Greenwald first published Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA surveillance program and continues to write extensively on the topic. His most recent articles are "The Crux of the NSA Story in One Phrase: 'Collect It All'" and "Email Exchange Between Edward Snowden and Former GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey."http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/18/glenn_greenwald_growing_backlash_against_nsa
Monte B Cowboy
Jul 14, 2013 4:25pm
Re: The Downside of no journalism is infotainment
Guy Fieiri appears to have served up some grub for one of the Bohemian Grove camps last night. It's posted in the link I gave you. Was it Bobby and Mickey's camp?
Sean - not to rub your face in this, but, I'm living in the same fucking 24-7-365 News Black-out that you and everyone else in America are living in... "The infotainment narrative of life in America"
Bill Moyers and Marty Kaplan discuss for us "The Weapons of Mass Distraction" - July 12, 2013http://billmoyers.com/segment/marty-kaplan-on-the-weapons-of-mass-distraction/
BILL MOYERS: Welcome [PBS viewers]. Time again to talk with MARTY KAPLAN. Loyal members of Moyers and Company know him as one of the keenest and most sensible observers of politics, the press, and culture. He runs the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, an independent promontory from which he lets his mind range wherever his insatiable curiosity takes him. Most recently, Brazil.
For several weeks, the largest country in Latin America has been shaken by a massive citizen uprising protesting political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, lousy mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure, and, get this, billions blown on sports. That’s right, vast numbers of citizens in this soccer crazy nation are outraged that their government is spending billions of dollars to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This, in the land of Pelé.
They're even up in arms over the $74 million deal signed by the young soccer star Neymar da Silva. Crowds have been shouting, "Brazil, wake up. A teacher is worth more than Neymar!" Being no one’s fool, Neymar has sided with the protesters and written on Facebook that their mobilization inspires him on the playing field.
Surveying this tumult, MARTY KAPLAN recently expressed wonder at this people's uprising and challenged us, his fellow Americans, "Let's Be Brazil." That's when I called and ask him to join me on the show. By the way, his work has just won two awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, including best columnist.
MARTY KAPLAN, welcome.
MARTY KAPLAN: Thanks very much.
BILL MOYERS: And congratulations on those awards.
MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: You recently confessed to “outrage envy.” What's that about?
MARTY KAPLAN: It's my feeling that what happened in Brazil, which is so encouraging about citizens taking their destiny in their own hands, is not happening here. We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system. Why are we not also taking to the streets is the question. And I want us to.
BILL MOYERS: You wrote "If you’re not outraged…you're not paying attention." So are we not paying attention?
MARTY KAPLAN: We are paying attention to the wrong things. We are paying attention to infotainment, which is being spoon-fed to us and sadly, frankly, we are enabling because we love the stuff.
BILL MOYERS: "The infotainment narrative of life in America," you call.
MARTY KAPLAN: Yes. The tragedy of journalism now is that it is demand driven. And when you ask people what they want, we're like one of those rats that have a lever to push and cocaine comes out. And once that happens one time, they'll stay there till they die, until more of the drug appears. We can't help loving lurid stories and suspense and the kind of sex and violence which the news is now made up of.
BILL MOYERS: But you go on beyond the infotainment story. You say, "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system." Powerful sentence. "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system."
MARTY KAPLAN: The control of our democracy by money is shocking and deserves the same kind of response to corruption that it got in Brazil. And instead, we have become used to it. We don't see a way around it. There are voices, there are people like Larry Lessig that are trying to change the campaign finance system, the way media plays into that. But they are voices in the wilderness.
And we, the public, have wised up and decided either not to pay attention at all, or the media have decided not to force us to pay attention. And if we do pay attention, you can't live with the knowledge that our democracy is now so corrupt that it is unchangeable.
BILL MOYERS: So, if it is true as you say, that, “Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrial world,” that we've witnessed “The most massive transfer of wealth in history,” which is “Destroying our middle class,” that “Tuition is increasingly unaffordable, and retirement increasingly unavailable,” that “The banks that sold trillions of dollars of Americans' worth have not only gone unpunished; they're still at it,” why are we not at the barricades?
MARTY KAPLAN: I suspect among your viewers, there were people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered and can make a difference--
BILL MOYERS: Taught by whom? By those of us who report the news of bad things happening?
MARTY KAPLAN: Well, the stuff that is being reported on the news tends not to be the kind of stuff that we need to know about in order to be outraged. Climate change is one of the great tests of journalism.
There was "The New York Times" headline about the first time that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. Which "The Times" said that carbon dioxide had reached a level not seen in “millions of years.”
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
MARTY KAPLAN: My jaw fell. You would think that that would cause a worldwide stir. And instead, it was a one-day story, onto the next thing.
BILL MOYERS: As you know, President Obama recently made a major speech in which he announced a new plan to tackle climate change. All three cable networks turned to the president's speech, but then they cut away from it well before it was intended to end. Fox News cut away saying the remarks could be streamed online, and then they turned to a guest critical of the president.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The planet is warming, and human activity is contributing to it.
MEGYN KELLY on Fox News: But that is not the full story. We’re going to stream the remainder of the President’s remarks live on foxnews.com and in the meantime we’ll be, we’re joined now with some reaction. Chris Horner is the senior fellow and the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the author of the book, "Red Hot Lies."
BILL MOYERS: Fox's host, Megyn Kelly wondered aloud about whether the country even needed to tackle the problem. And CNN's Wolf Blitzer cut in soon after--
WOLF BLITZER on CNN Newsroom: Alright, so the president making a major, major address on climate change. I want to bring in Jim Acosta, and the president has got some important news he’s about to release--
BILL MOYERS: --and then Wolf continued to talk over the president's remarks. What do you make of that?
MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is more interesting to journalism than the message itself. People--
BILL MOYERS: Meta message?
MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is, here's grist for combat between different factions. How is it going to play out? Rather than the message, which is, here's what's happening to our climate, here's what we have to do to prevent it. That stuff risks being boring. But combat is never boring. What they don't know how to do is to talk about, well, what are our options here, America? How do we mitigate the effects of climate change?
Instead, they're refighting all these old battles. And that kind of combat is what they can do. The Sunday talk shows did something else, which is to completely ignore it. I mean, they probably had John McCain and Lindsey Graham on for the 27th time each, instead of dealing with what was the most important speech about climate change ever given by a sitting president.
BILL MOYERS: And ThinkProgress, the progressive website published an info-graphic, which pointed out that, as you say, Sunday's news shows ignored Obama's climate plan, late-night comedy shows picked up the slack. "The Daily Show" gave three minutes and 29 seconds to the president, "The Late Show" gave one minute, 33 seconds, "The Tonight Show" gave one minute and two seconds. "Meet the Press?" Zero seconds. Fox News? Zero seconds. ABC "This Week"? Zero seconds. "Face the Nation?" Zero seconds. "State of the Union" on CNN, zero seconds.
MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, but I bet they kept us informed about the phony IRS scandal. They have stuff which they think pushes the buttons that makes people emotional and angry. And they just find climate change as snooze. They find guns a snooze. Look at what happened with Sandy Hook. Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy and climate change. We are capable of turning away because we get bored with one thing and need the next.
BILL MOYERS: At the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, you wrote about the learned helplessness that seemed to permeate that situation. Talk about that a moment.
MARTY KAPLAN: We have had the unfortunate experience of being outraged, being Brazilians, trying to get something done, and watching as the dysfunctional system that we are forced to live under destroys momentum and creates stasis, or adds power to the already powerful, rather than enabling reform. We have, for example, on Capitol Hill, a system which is built on the need to create ads, narratives, phony reality about members who are running for office.
And they need to finance that because our television stations make a killing on that. Especially in the swing states. And so the only way they can finance it is by doing quid pro quo deals with special interests. So when the Newtown tragedy happened, my instinct was, yes, I know Obama's going to make a great speech and the polls are going to be 99 percent, but it's going to be business as usual. Our hearts will be broken, because the system is simply unresponsive and incapable of reform.
You watch that happen enough times, and you decide, why bother? You have to be someone who just fell off the turnip truck to think that popular outrage can make a difference. The truth is that we can make a difference. We can change the way campaigns are financed. We can change the electoral college. You name it, we can do things. But because we have been taught that we will be ineffective and fail, it seems like the gesture of a rube to be hopeful.
BILL MOYERS: But this takes us back to the Brazilians. Because as you know, the Brazilians were protesting, millions of them were protesting against the $31, $33 billion they're going be spending on the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. They were carrying signs about that 21-year-old soccer star who's just signed a deal for $74 million. And they were saying, a good teacher is worth more than this soccer star. Now somehow, their learned helplessness was overwhelmed, or overcome, or penetrated by some other consciousness.
MARTY KAPLAN: Well, but I think the key difference is that their democracy is new. They still believe in holding it accountable. They want to have a system that works. And as long as their promise is out there of making a difference, they want to hold the politicians' feet to the fire. In our case, we have an old democracy, which has ossified.
The narrative should be, the system is broken, let’s fix it. The founders were not Moses or God and what they put in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, was not written in stone. It is meant to deal with things they could never imagine.
They could not imagine swing states and the amount of money you have to spend and what you have to do with special interests in order to get elected. There is a pathology in our system that we, as a country, refuse to acknowledge because it's a way of saying that we're not heaven's blessed child. We are humans.
BILL MOYERS: What intrigued me was that the Brazilians first sparked over an increase in the bus fare in São Paulo, and then it just spread. The bus fare. Yet when recently the Metropolitan Transit Authority here in New York raised the transit fare, it just, that wasn't even a ripple on the surface.
MARTY KAPLAN: Because the class that produces news has the kind of incomes that can absorb those kinds of changes. The news industry is now part of the privileged elite. They are not the scrappy adversaries that one would hope they would be fighting for the little guy. They are the man. And if public transportation costs a little more, the studio's going to send a car for them anyway. The problem is that corporate self-interest plays itself out in the content of news.
BILL MOYERS: As you know, there's a debate going on over journalism in America. The Pew Research Center recently wrote bleakly about the future of journalism.
The other side of it, Marty, is that some people are saying these are the “glory days” of journalism, because there's so much information out there online, if you have access. And you yourself recently wrote, and I’m quoting, “the best journalism in the world, from plenty of sources, is available online, often for no cents a day, and we can access it in video and audio as well, and from anywhere at any time.” So where do you come down?
MARTY KAPLAN: And as long as you are a critical thinker. As long as you could sort the stuff that's reliable from the crud. As long as you understand that people who propagate information have interests. And so you could understand that, you know, this incredibly popular website is also the mouthpiece for this party. To be able to do that requires exposure to enough quality journalism so that you learn to tell the difference between the stuff that's being hawked in the bazaar that is intriguing and probably only partly accurate, between that and stuff which, where the facts are verified. We have had instance after instance in the last several months of stories in which it's the pressure to be first, to say something before anyone else has completely overridden the pressure to check is it accurate and valid.
And this is happening to the prestige outlets. They are not taking the time, because they have this bizarre notion that being first in the world of journalism, when microseconds count, it's like being a micro trader on Wall Street, that you're going to make or lose zillions by having those bragging rights. And in fact, the next day, they buy full-page ads in "The New York Times" saying, we were first to get this. They don't buy an ad when they say, we were first and wrong.
BILL MOYERS: Come back to cable for a moment. Because as you know, the three major cable outlets, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN have been giving a lot of attention to the Trayvon Martin story--
NEWS ANCHOR #1: Yesterday, huge day in the George Zimmerman trial--
NEWS ANCHOR #2: Coming up, a crucial day in the George Zimmerman trial--
NEWS ANCHOR #3: George Zimmerman trial is eating up a lot of time on cable television--
NEWS ANCHOR #4: The trial that has got America entranced--
NEWS ANCHOR #5: We are watching with great interest--
NEWS ANCHOR #6: The jury is not yet seated. As soon as this trial begins in earnest we will take you there--
BILL MOYERS: It's a good story, by the way. Would they be doing this if people weren't watching?
MARTY KAPLAN: No. They are both creating and responding to demand. But what they're not doing is exercising journalism. What they're doing is they're part of the entertainment industry. They're providing content. Journalism, in principle, is set apart because it has a notion of what's important, not just interesting. And in a dream world, journalists would make important stuff interesting. That they would use the same kind of techniques they use in covering the Trayvon Martin case to make stuff like climate change just as compelling.
BILL MOYERS: You've been following the debate between Glenn Greenwald who broke the Edward Snowden story and NBC’s David Gregory, who asked, well, let's listen to what David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald on "Meet the Press."
DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?
GLENN GREENWALD on Meet the Press: I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I've aided and abetted him in any way.
The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the emails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felonies, in felonies for working with sources.
If you want to embrace that theory, it means every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal. And it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why "The New Yorker's" Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a "standstill," her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.
DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you're doing. And of course anybody who's watching this understands I was asking a question, that question has been raised by lawmakers as well. I'm not embracing anything. But, obviously I take your point.
MARTY KAPLAN: The assumption of the question is that there is some dictionary somewhere that says what journalism is. The truth is that journalism, like a number of other things, is socially constructed. We enter into a contract through history and based on class and evidence of what journalism is or is not. Things get ruled in or ruled out all the time.
And the reasons they're ruled in or out is not because some school of journalism, some professor, says, well, here's the yardstick and it is or it isn't. The way in which things get ruled in or not is practice. What actually happens? So if David Gregory can ask a question and justify it by say, some in Congress are asking that question, that rules out nothing.
Some in Congress are morons. And those people will say anything. And as long as you can have the ability to do the "some say" game and call yourself a journalist and be in a mainstream marquee platform, then you are tugging at what the definition of journalism is. And I think it's entirely appropriate for Glenn Greenwald or anyone else to tug right back and say, no. What you have done changes the terms of the debate. Here's where I stand. And let's fight it out. Let's not let the imprimatur of some corporate trademark say that this defines what journalism is.
BILL MOYERS: So when Glenn Greenwald says, "Top officials are lying to our faces about government spying," is that journalism or is it prosecution? Is he a journalist or is he an activist?
MARTY KAPLAN: I think there is a credible case that journalism is activism. That if you, as a journalist covered climate change by saying, well, some say this and some say that, you're not being a journalist. You're being a tool of the people who want to intimidate journalism from covering evidence and the truth. So when Glenn Greenwald says that lying is going on, I don't think you can rule that out because of the activist nature of journalism. It either is true or not true. Let's settle it on those merits, not on the question of, does he have the credential to be able to do that?
BILL MOYERS: It does seem to me that the First Amendment guarantees us the right to draw a conclusion on the evidence, from the evidence that we have gathered.
MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, and unfortunately, the, especially the right has learned to game the system and to say, no, no, journalism is not that. Journalism is, “We report, you decide." The phony slogan of Fox News. So giving people alleged evidence and letting them draw alleged conclusions is in the interest of people who want to throw sand in your face and work the ref so that they are softened up and afraid to say, here is the conclusion.
BILL MOYERS: So your point about the Trayvon Martin trial, about Paula Deen, whom we haven't even discussed about what you call the race, crime, and porn axis in tabloid news, cable news, your point is that it distracts us from and drives out attention to the problems that will take us down if we don't tackle them?
MARTY KAPLAN: Watch the birdie over here, not the corruption over there. That's what circuses are about, is to distract us and make us happy while we're being distracted. The challenge is not only to give us the information that we should be paying attention to and to do it in a way which keeps our attention, the challenge is also what do we as citizens do with that. And I think there is an aspect of journalism which is afraid of taking that extra step and empowering citizens or covering the citizens who have empowered themselves to try to make a difference.
BILL MOYERS: So when we do that, Marty, we run into what you wrote about recently, “Informed Citizen Disorder,” ICD. Now for the benefit of my viewers who haven't read this, tell me what you mean by “Informed Citizen Disorder.”
MARTY KAPLAN: Ever since I was in junior high school, I was taught that to be a good citizen meant you needed to know what was going on in your country and in your world. You should read the paper, you should pay attention to the news, that's part of your responsibility of being an American.
And the problem, especially in recent years, is the more informed I am, the more despondent I am, because day after day, there is news which drives me crazy and I want to see the public rise up in outrage and say, no, you can't do that, banks. You can't do that, corporations. You can't do that polluters, you have to stop and pay attention to the laws, or we're going to change the laws.
That every time that doesn't happen, and I keep learning each day the same thing, something bad happened and nothing was done about it, that's the news. The more that that's the case, the sadder one is when you consume all that news. So it, the, all the incentives are perverse. The way to be happy, to avoid this despondency is to be oblivious to it all, to live in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."
BILL MOYERS: So, given all that we've talked about and all you're writing about, where do you come out? Are you an optimist or a pessimist about what's happening to us?
MARTY KAPLAN: I have children. I have to be an optimist. The globe has children. We have to be optimists. There is no choice. What is the alternative? If you are a pessimist, well, the most you can do, I suppose, is medicate yourself with the latest blockbuster and some sugar, salt, and fat that's being marketed to you. The only responsible thing that you can do is say that individuals can make a difference and I will try, we will try, to make that.
BILL MOYERS: Don't they have to do it collectively. I mean, right now in North Carolina, there's a growing demonstration against the coup by the right wing that's been taken. But don't we have to do that collectively as they did in Brazil?
MARTY KAPLAN: Well, yes, we do. But moral Monday’s in North Carolina is a great example. What happened in Wisconsin was a great example. When people see one another, they join one another. If the TV is covering these demonstrations, it draws other people into it. The internet has been, in principle, a way in which people can gauge the growth of a community of discontent.
It is not as important so far as actually physically getting off your duff and going into the street. And I'm under no illusion that I can ignite some national wave of protest. But as more and more cities become more and more unhappy with what their corrupt government is doing, maybe a critical mass builds.
BILL MOYERS: MARTY KAPLAN, thank you again for joining me.
MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.http://billmoyers.com/segment/marty-kaplan-on-the-weapons-of-mass-distraction/